Collecting your hire car

You shouldn’t collect a car in the dark as you do need to make a note of every scratch and dent before you drive away.

If you are travelling in a group, and you trust everyone, the main driver could leave the luggage reclaim and go straight to the car rental office and beat most of the queue. Remember that this should not be done if duty free is in your luggage.

If you feel lucky book a popular budget model and then take your time getting to the front desk. They may then run out of your model and you could be in line for a free upgrade (or you could get a much worse model if it’s really busy).

Credit card required

You will need a credit card when you collect the car, for security. It is unlikely that a debit card will be accepted. Some companies may insist on using the same card that was used to make the booking, so make sure that you know if this is the case.

If you are sent to collect your car from a large car park and you notice damage, don’t drive it back to the office, leave it and go back to the front desk to complain and insist that a member of staff comes with you to complete the handover.

Make sure that every part of the form is filled in; if a part is not relevant, put a line through it. Record the mileage and how much fuel was left for you. Make sure that you understand the fuel charges, do you need to return the car empty or full? If it has to be full and you haven’t been given a full tank, make sure that this is noted on the paperwork and agree (with a signature) what you should do when returning the car. Also, if you have to fill up the tank, make sure that you keep your last receipt if it has the date and time so that you can use it as proof for any disputes.

It’s down to you

It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that the car is road legal. Some countries have laws such as reflected vests must be carried, or in France it is illegal to have a Satnav that lists fixed speed cameras. When you collect the car, ensure that you have compiled a checklist of the local laws so that you can check that you have been supplied with all the necessary equipment.

If you need a child seat it is probably better to bring your own. These do have to be ordered well in advance, but they can still be missing. These can usually be carried for free by your airline. Not only will it be a better fit for your child, it is probably more hygienic as well.

Finally make sure that you know all the emergency telephone numbers and the instructions that must be followed should you break down or have an accident.

Before you drive off, take a few minutes to become familiar with the car.

Returning your rental car

If you have to drop off the hire car when the office is closed, try to take photos of the car near the office to show that there isn’t any major damage. If the office is open but they are ‘too busy’ to check the car over, write ‘DECLINED TO INSPECT’ over the form.

If you did have an accident, you should obtain your own local quotation for the cost to repair the damage (but don’t get the work done). You can use this if you feel that you are being charged too much.

You may have had an imprint of your credit card taken when you collected the car, so make sure that you get this imprint back and that you destroy it.

It can be cheaper to hire a car locally, but if you have a problem it can be difficult to resolve once you are back home. If you use a multinational company, your local office should help you to sort it out.

There is help available if you have a dispute with your hire car firm

British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association
The BVRLA is primarily to promote the interests of its members, but there is a code of conduct for its members to follow and you can complain to the Association if you feel that the service that you received means that the member is breaking this code.

European Car Rental Conciliation Service
The ECRCS helps customers with unresolved complaints concerning cross border vehicle rentals within Europe. However, there are only around half a dozen members of this service.